Does data cost more overseas?


Close lesson
You have completed 0%

Does data cost more overseas?

A relaxing moment in a hammock while checking tomorrow's weather forecast

What's coming up?

In this activity, you'll learn about how using data overseas on your own mobile phone can cost more than here in Australia.

You'll learn that each mobile phone provider does things a little differently. But it's important to be aware of the potential costs, so you don't come home to a huge data bill.

Start activity

International data roaming

The service that lets your mobile phone work overseas is called international roaming. Some providers call it roaming or data roaming.

While all Australian mobile phones use the same technology, the way each provider charges you for international roaming differs.

Signposts to different countries around the world
A graphic of the world indicating charges for overseas data

How providers might charge you overseas

At home, your mobile phone plan includes a number of calls and an amount of internet data, for a set price per month.

When you go overseas, you will be asked to pay extra. This extra amount will be added to your usual bill.

In the next few slides, we'll look at some of the common ways mobile phone providers charge for data and calls overseas.

International pricing zones

Most providers split the world up into different pricing zones. When you make calls or use data overseas, you will be charged based on which zone you're in.

As a general rule, the more remote the location, the more expensive. Central Paris might not be very expensive, but Siberia might.

A map of the world with indications of how much per minute it costs to call home using your mobile phone
An icon of a padlock

eSafety tip

Calls and data will be charged as you use them. There are no limits to the calls or data you can use, so you can end up with high costs if you're not careful.

You will still have to pay your monthly mobile phone bill on top of these costs.

International day pass

Some providers allow you to pay a daily fee of $5 to $10 to use your phone overseas. This lets you make as many phone calls as you usually would, but you'll probably get only a very small amount of data to use per day. It's usually enough for a day's worth of basic web browsing, such as looking up transport timetables and checking weather reports.

You will still have to pay your monthly mobile phone bill on top of this.

A calendar showing a daily charge of $5 for an international data pass while on holiday
2GB of data a day on holiday can let you do quite a lot online

International data packs

Some providers allow you to pre-pay for a pack of data to use overseas. This is a set amount of data you pay for only once and use until it runs out of data. If you need more data, you need to pay for more.

This makes your budget easy to manage, but not all providers offer this option.

How can I see what my provider offers?

Your mobile phone provider will have a website with all the details for international roaming, but it can be a lot to take in.

Because it is easy to end up with a big bill making voice calls and using data overseas, it's best to go into your provider's shop and speak to a staff member before you go away. Ask about your options for international roaming and tell them which country you'll be visiting.

A graphic of a shop front for a mobile and home internet provider
Buying a SIM card when you reach your destination can sometimes be the cheapest way to stay connected overseas

Pre-pay at your destination

The cheapest way to get data and mobile phone calls while overseas is to buy a pre-paid service when you get to your destination.

You need to remove your Australian SIM card from your regular mobile phone and replace it with the SIM card you buy at your destination.

You should check before leaving whether it is easy to purchase a new SIM for your destination. Some countries have onerous requirements for obtaining a SIM.

Using a new SIM at your destination

The new SIM will give you a mobile phone number for the country you're visiting, and much bigger data and call allowances. This means no-one will be able to contact you on your Australian mobile phone number while you are using the pre-paid service from the country you're visiting.

If you want to receive calls from friends and family, you can send the international phone number to them in a text or email.

A new SIM card being inserted into a mobile phone
A holidaymaker relaxing on a beach while calling home

Time for a recap

You've learned that there are a few ways of paying for data while travelling, including:

  • International day passes
  • International data packs
  • Pre-pay at your destination (which is the cheapest option).

Data can cost a lot when you travel overseas, so take the time to familiarise yourself with how your provider charges before you go. Remember that your providers' website can be confusing, so call them up or pop into a shop to talk to someone in person.


This is the end of the Does data cost more overseas? activity.

Up next, you'll learn more about what you need to check before you travel, and what you need to be ready to use your phone overseas, in the Getting ready to travel activity.

A mobile phone being used as a camera to take a holiday snap